Kokanee return | Third highest spawning run in the last two decades

Likely 4,000 kokanee, a species closely related to the sockeye salmon but which only live in Lake Sammamish, will have returned to familiar breeding streams by spring, estimated David St. John, coordinator and chair of the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group.

Kokanee blocked from moving further up Zaccuse Creek in mid-November 2015.

So far, it appears to be a solid return year for the rare, fresh-water salmon swimming back to their spawning grounds in Sammamish and Bellevue.

Likely 4,000 kokanee, a species closely related to the sockeye salmon but which only live in Lake Sammamish, will have returned to familiar breeding streams by spring, estimated David St. John, coordinator and chair of the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group.

These numbers would make this year’s return the third highest in the last two decades, he said.

“It’s a good sign that we’re making progress,” St. John said.

Since 2009, per the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery program, crews have been collecting and raising kokanee offspring before releasing them back into native creeks. This strengthens the species’ numbers and increases their chance of survival. This year, hatchery crews collected about 145,000 eggs, the second most ever gathered, St. John said.

And since 2010, the hatchery program has brought more than 300,000 kokanee fry back to native waters. The 2015 Kokanee Release saw 46,000 baby fish returned to local streams.

This year’s return, the 2015-2016 run, are the offspring of a large spawning group in 2012-2013 when an estimated 15,000 fish swam back to native streams.

“When we talk about having a ‘good year’ it’s relative. Historically speaking, these are all bad years,” St. John said. “We need to do better.”

Once, the kokanee thrived in the tens of thousands, St. John said. In recent decades the species saw a dramatic decline in population, on the “brink of extinction” King County Executive Dow Constantine said in 2011.

Even with the relatively strong return in 2012-2013, officials are still not seeing the full production of those fish. That run should have produced more like 20,000 fish, but instead, the county is seeing  ⅓ of that, St. John said.

There are two possible theories to explain this: either there’s not enough food in the lake to support the offspring, or there’s not enough habitat in the creeks for them to spawn in. The latter would result in kokanee returning later in the year potentially clearing away laid eggs to make room for their own.

“That would mean we would need to restore access to Zaccuse Creek, restore access to George Davis Creek,” St. John said.

Though kokanee once inhabited many streams feeding into the lake, they know only return to three: Ebright Creek and Laughing Jacobs Creek on the Plateau, as well as Lewis Creek in Bellevue.

The 2015-2016 return numbers won’t be official until the spring, St. John said.




In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@issaquahreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.issaquahreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

Overlake staff share why they mask up

The video features medical professionals explaining their personal reasons for why it is important to wear masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19

New report shows increase in East King County homelessness

East King County includes Mercer Island, Bellevue, Kirkland and Issaquah.

The Red Lion Inn at 1 South Grady Way in Renton is being used as temporary site to relocate individuals experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo.
Renton battles King County over temporary shelter at Red Lion Hotel

County officials believe emergency health order will supersede city’s move.

A train route that would shuttle people between Eastern and Western Washington could tie in with the proposed ultra-high-speed rail between B.C. and Portland. Photo courtesy RobertStafford/Pixabay.com
State receives King County to Spokane rail study

It would take about eight and a half hours to reach the Inland Empire from Puget Sound.

Bret Chiafalo. File photo
Supreme Court says state can punish WA faithless electors

Justices: Presidential electors, including Everett man, must keep pledge to back popular vote winner

Gov. Jay Inslee issued new guidance allowing the resumption of self-service buffets, salad bars, salsa bars, drink stations and other types of communal food sources in Phase 2. File photo
Buffets and salad bars back on the menu in King County

Gov. Jay Inslee has revised rules to allow self-serve food areas in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening.

Folks enjoy outdoor eating during the start of the Streatery Pilot in downtown Issaquah. Photo courtesy city of Issaquah.
Streatery Pilot on pause while COVID-19 cases rise

The city council will review the pilot program July 20 for possible reopening July 24

Brian Tilley (left) and Katie Dearman work the wash station Friday at Kate’s Greek American Deli in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Governor’s no-mask, no-service order begins across Washington

“Just do not ring up the sale,” Gov. Jay Inslee said about customers who do not don the proper masks.

King County homeless count: 11,751 people, up 5 percent from 2019

One night a year, volunteers spread out across Seattle and King County… Continue reading

Most Read